Let me start with a disclaimer: I’ve been a faithful Netflix subscriber for many years. I’m a huge proponent of abandoning cable television and I’ve experienced my share of cord cutting benefits. So this suggestion to avoid Netflix is not coming from an anti-Netflix bias.
The truth is, while Netflix is certainly an amazing and worthwhile service for many people, it may not be the right service for you. Just as there are pitfalls to cutting the cord, there are downsides to Netflix that you might consider to be deal-breakers.
So before you hop aboard the Netflix hype train, take a moment to consider these imperfections.
1. Limited Regional Selections
Of all the drawbacks to Netflix, one is undeniably bad for viewers: The number and quality of movies and TV shows you have access to will depend on where you live.
Even though Netflix is constantly expanding — it recently opened in 130+ new countries — it may not be as useful to you as it is to me. I can enjoy the entire U.S. catalog for just $8-per-month, but if you can’t watch the same content, then that $8 cost may not worth it for you.
There are times when I want to watch something only to find it’s only available on Netflix Canada or Netflix U.K. This happens very rarely, but when it does, it annoys me. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for people outside of the U.S. wanting to watch Netflix content available exclusively in the United States.
And yes, there are ways to watch everything on Netflix from anywhere in the world, the most common method being through the use of a VPN — but Netflix is starting to crack down on VPNs, so that method may go extinct soon. You could also try using Smartflix, but that service could itself be killed off at any time.
2. An Outdated Library
The other big complaint about Netflix — which has been one of its sore spots ever since the streaming service went live — is that its library will never really be up-to-date. These days, only Netflix originals can ever be considered timely and trendy.
Due to licensing agreements with TV networks, it doesn’t make sense to let Netflix stream episodes as they’re released on a network (like ABC or CBS) because that would kill any incentive for people to watch the networks themselves. (Although Hulu does offer next-day episodes.)
Netflix’s strength is in binge-watching, which means it’s really good for catching up on TV shows just before the next season begins airing — and that’s why a lot of Netflix’s library is about one year in the past. Networks aren’t willing to let Netflix load up its library with recent content.
Why one year, though? Because that’s when full-season DVD sales are still profitable, and that’s also one reason why films are so late to join Netflix’s library. Publishers only start licensing with Netflix when sales of a season, show, or movie have run their course.
3. Internet Requirements
The thing about Netflix — and any kind of online streaming service — is that the entire service is contingent upon your Internet connection quality. Whether you’re watching YouTube, Twitch, or Netflix, your ISP could be the difference between watching in 240p, 720p, or amazing 4K video.
If your Internet goes down, then there’s no Netflix. If people on your network are watching YouTube or playing games, and consequently hogging up bandwidth, Netflix will stutter. And if your Internet speed is bad, video quality will suffer. (Netflix automatically decides stream quality based on the health of your connection.)
Compare that to Blu-ray or DVD: you just pop the disc into the right player and you get the exact same quality all the time, and you can keep watching even if your Internet connection goes out. The value of this reliability cannot be overstated.
4. Data Cap Consumption
While we’re on the topic of Internet connections, let’s not forget that data caps are a very real nuisance to consider when streaming media — especially for videos, which can eat up more than 1 GB per hour depending on how much quality you demand when watching movies and TV shows.
Indeed, data caps are a serious threat to services like Netflix. If you have trouble visualizing just how bad the problem is, let’s consider the example of Comcast testing out limits of 300 GB per month, which amounts to:
- ~1,000 hours at Low quality.
- ~425 hours at Standard quality.
- ~100 hours at High quality.
- ~40 hours at Ultra HD quality.
Estimates are based on Netflix data usage details.
And these figures assume that you do nothing else besides Netflix. With Ultra HD becoming the norm in home entertainment, these figures are simply unacceptable. If you have a capped Internet connection, then beware: Netflix will consume your data faster than you think.
5. No Ownership of Media
Of all the reasons not to abandon your CDs and DVDs, this one is the most relevant: even though you pay for Netflix, you don’t own anything on it. If you buy a DVD, it’s yours. With Netflix, your payments disappear into thin air.
This means that after one year, you will have paid anywhere from $96 to $144 depending on which Netflix plan you chose — and have nothing to show for it except the memories of whatever TV shows and films you watched during that time.
This is one of the big tragedies of joining the streaming generation. We’re starting to see a decline in the ownership of entertainment media, and that puts you at the mercy of content publishers and streamers.
The worst example of this is that shows and films can be pulled from Netflix’s library at any time. Nothing is more irritating than binge-watching a show like Breaking Bad only to find that it’s disappeared when you’re only halfway through.
6. Subscription Value
Netflix encourages binge-watching. In fact, it’s such an integral aspect of the service that the word “Netflix” is pretty much synonymous with “binge-watching” these days. Once you start a show, it’s really hard to stop (not good for those prone to procrastination).
Television is also addictive, but it’s much easier to walk away when a show ends because you can’t control when a show can be marathoned or not.
And it’s not just because Netflix makes it really easy to move from one episode to the next, although that does play a big part. It’s because Netflix is a subscription service. You pay the same no matter how much watch, so watching more in a month means wringing more value out of your subscription.
On the other hand, if you don’t watch much at all, then Netflix may not be worth the price tag. I mean, if you go a month without watching anything, then you’ve basically thrown away $8. So in a sense, the subscription itself encourages you to binge-watch, which can lead to a tech addiction.
7. Loss of Channel Surfing
This last point is minor in the bigger picture, but still worth considering if you haven’t cut the cord yet: you can’t surf channels and just watch whatever’s playing. You always have to pick something, and sometimes the picking process isn’t so easy.
Some workarounds do exist, such as this Chrome extension that will simulate channel surfing for you based on certain genres, but even those tend to be riddled with bugs and/or veer too far from the real thing. There’s a charm to knowing that a show is playing live, and Netflix doesn’t have that.
For the Most Part, Netflix Is Worth It
Again, let me reiterate that I’m a huge Netflix fan. I’ve been watching it every single day for the past few years and my appreciation of it far outweighs whatever gripes I might have. It’s truly worth it — so much so that we have previously argued why you should be willing to pay more for Netflix.
However, if any of the reasons above resonate with you, then perhaps it would be better for you to skip it and move on. If you’re unsure, try the free 30-day trial, but don’t feel bad if you don’t like it. Even the best Netflix features won’t matter if the service is incompatible with your needs.
How well does Netflix fit into your life? Are there any specific gripes you have about the service? If you already subscribe, could you live without Netflix? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Image Credits: Pile of DVDs by baitong333 via Shutterstock